Monday, January 2, 2012
Television Review: Portlandia: Season 1 (2011, IFC)
Sketch comedy is a tricky concept to pull off.
It's a fine line between complete absurdity and utter realness. This is why a sketch comedy show based in, on and around the city/myth/legend of Portland, Oregon makes so much sense. How much do you really have to bend reality when the place your show is set in already sets itself apart from the rest of the planet?
Portlandia, whose second season debuts Friday on IFC, is the brainchild of Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live) and Portland's own Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney). The sketches are interconnected, long-form and character-based, but really they're a shell for the pair's subtle brand of lovingly absurd, sardonic humor to find room to breathe. The majority of the show's bits work because of the little moments hidden between the punchlines. And even, beyond that, the punchlines sometimes never come. The setup of the joke is often enough to carry the weight.
Another reason the show works so well is because Armisen and Brownstein obviously love Portland and everything it stands for to death. This is the whole reason they are able to get away with poking fun at the hipster capital of the Pacific Northwest. There's really nothing mean-spirited here and the humor isn't over the top so it's definitely not going to be for everyone. But for those who learned comedy at the knee of Kids in the Hall and Monty Python and haven't watch this yet, I can only pity them for not watching it sooner.